“I had my students redesign their city so I talked about urban planning and had the class build life-size structures in groups.”
After having her study abroad plans thrown up in the air by the ongoing unrest in the Middle East, Hannah McIntire ’13 (Milford, Conn.) decided to return to Nablus, Palestine, to intern for a second summer with the NGO Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO).
Her relationship with TYO began during her first year at Mac when she decided she wanted to combine her love of kids with her desire to intern abroad. “I decided to apply to intern with TYO though from their website it appeared that they only accepted grad students,” she says. “One Skype interview led to another, led to another, and I was a little shocked when they finally offered me the position. So the summer after my freshman year, at 18 years old, I went to Palestine.”
Fast forward to junior year and like most international studies majors, Hannah had planned on studying abroad. Syria, her chosen destination, was no longer an option as protests and eventually civil war gripped the country. With a clear idea of what she wanted out of a study abroad experience, she began exploring other options in the Middle East. “I’m not really interested in touring around a country,” she says. “I’d rather have an internship and really be with people and delve into the issues and learn more about like what it is to actually live in Palestinian society or Jordanian society or what have you.” In consultation with Professor David Moore, at the time the chair of the International Studies Department, Hannah decided to intern with TYO for a second summer.
For her internship, Hannah lived and worked in the TYO Center in Nablus. Her work consisted of teaching both at the center and at An Najah University. Her courses included: Critical Thinking in Art for 9–10 year olds, Professional Competency, Women’s Beginning English, Community Entry Level English, and Art and Health for 4–5 year olds.
The two courses for children quickly became her favorite. “Critical Thinking in Art was really fun, and because it is such a broad topic I got to take it in any direction I wanted,” McIntire says. “I had my students re-design their city so I talked about urban planning and had the class build lifesize structures in groups. It is really hard for kids, especially ones from different refugee camps, to begin trusting each other so they would work in small groups and have to make sure they were building an object together and not separately.” The second children’s course, Art and Health, provides a service unique in the region. “Early childhood education is not something that is available or valued in the Middle East. People do not see the value of having their children leave the house at what seems like such a young age,” explains Hannah.
Learning about the inner workings of a nonprofit and adapting to its typically demanding work schedule was an invaluable experience for McIntire, who hopes to work in the nonprofit world following graduation. This semester she’s serving as an educational resources intern at World Saavy, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that educates and engages youth in world affairs to help them become better global citizens.
Valuable as that Twin Cities internship is, it’s the time in Palestine that really showed her what’s expected of someone committed to an NGO. “When you work in an area with so many needs, the job is not simply nine to five,” she says. “You may wake up at six and not stop until midnight, but you do it because you love the kids and you love the people you work with.”